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New Zealand: Waitomo Caves Where the Stars Are Glowworms

Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

In the Waitomo Caves, there is no photography permitted, which makes the experience all the more sacred. New Zealand’s Waitomo Caves are home to thousands of glowworms that light up the ceiling.

How Glowworms Eat

While much of the tour is conducted in low light, there is a truly magnificent and terrifying view of what glowworms do to eat. The glowworm is the larva stage of an insect that lives only long enough to mate. It attaches itself to the ceiling of these caves where insects fly following the current of the air and river. If the insect flies too close to the ceiling of the cave. It gets caught and eaten by the glowworm. Many adults end up feeding the larva after they have mated.

The tour guides explain this and then turn on the lights to see what the glowworms look like. The bright flash blinds you for a second. When your eyes adjust, you see thousands of strands of saliva hanging a foot or more from the ceiling. These strands are excreted by the glowworms and used to trap their food. The lights go off, and you’re left with your thoughts, which may or may not include the ending of the original fly and what if you were that guy in this cave.

A Quiet Boat Ride

As you descend to the boats, the guides ask you to remain silent to allow everyone to enjoy the cave and its atmosphere. The lights above seem to waver in lines. They look like a 3D matte painting. It’s unreal, beautiful, and quiet. As an addition to our Hobbiton tour, Waitomo Cave was a perfect contrast to the manmade set. The entire experience highlighted New Zealand’s ingenuity, beauty, and natural wonders. If you can’t make it to New Zealand, You can listen to Johnny Mercer’s Glow Worm (affiliate link) tune!

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New Zealand Food Stories Collected during Our Journey

A New Zealand Food: Cheese Rolls

Watching How-to-Dad’s YouTube videos gave us an idea of what to expect for some New Zealand food. He has a great video on things that Kiwis, the people who live in New Zealand, eat. Most of the things I didn’t expect us to get a chance to try, but there were a couple of times when I was able to get food that Kiwis eat at home.

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Things We Missed in New Zealand

Morepork at Tiritiri Matangi Island

There’s no way to learn everything about a place you’re traveling to. You just have to do your best to research it and hope you find people who write about the things you most want to see or experience. Here are some things that we missed in New Zealand, but it’s okay because I wouldn’t change how or what we did on our trip.

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New Zealand: Photos from the Hobbiton Tour

Bus to Hobbiton

Perhaps the highlight of our Hobbiton tour was when I got to run down the lane shouting “I’m going on an adventure!” If you love Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, this is a must do in New Zealand, especially if you’re headed to or coming from Weta Workshop.

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Hobbiton: There and Back Again

Bus to Hobbiton

When you step on the bus to Hobbiton, you’re taken care of. My wife and I were scheduled to transfer to another company tour when we arrived at the Hobbiton reception center. Our first driver stayed with us until our tour leader arrived and had us on the bus. She even told us to use the restroom while she stayed with our luggage. IT made it very easy for us to enjoy our trip and take advantage of the bus that went from Rotorua to Auckland via Waitomo.

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New Zealand: Short Vignettes about the New Zealand

Red flowers at Parnell Rose Garden

One of the first things we noticed about New Zealand was the fresh air. We breathed in deeply and felt exhilarated. It smelled so good, and we were still in Auckland. On the Auckland Explorer Bus tour, we decided to visit the Parnell Rose Gardens. We could smell the roses as we stepped off the bus. While smokers, and the rare black smoke vehicle, can change the air quality for the worse, we were overjoyed to be able to experience clean air for most of our trip to New Zealand.

New Zealand Money

New Zealand’s money has a slick texture that is kind of stiff. It’s clear that it’s made from something other than what the U.S. uses. I asked the women at the bank where we exchanged money, and she said that New Zealand currency is made from polyurethane. If it gets wet, you just have to wipe it off; there’s no damage to the money at all.

Eating out in the Afternoon

Finding a place to eat gets tricky around 3:30 in the afternoon when many cafes stop serving and some restaurants haven’t opened for dinner. Usually it just takes a little more walking, settling for a higher-priced meal, or ducking into a dairy (convenience store) for a hot pie.

Tiritiri Matangi’s Jumping Spider

When we sat down to eat at the Tiritiri Matangi Wildlife Sanctuary, I opened my bag and pulled out what we had packed. I put my arms on the table and noticed a spider running along the top. It ran back and forth along the edge, sometimes disappearing to the underside.

The birds tweeted and sang. Some flew close to our table. “You better stay close spider.” He turned to face me. “Those birds may try to eat you.” He hid under the table. He came back up and we talked. I pulled my backpack from the ground and began to put things away.

The spider must have thought I was okay for a human because he crouched down, wiggled his butt and sprang onto my backpack. I screeched and fell back. Then I brushed him off the pack. He fell to the ground and walked away. I felt a little bad. After all, we were just becoming friends, but I couldn’t overcome my fear to make this friendship work.

The Fern Trees of Tiritiri Matangi

The tree ferns on Tiritiri Matangi grow up like trees. They are hollow on the inside, so when they get to tall, they die because they aren’t able to provide water to the upper reaches to stay alive. This height is more or less uniform among the plants. There must be a reason why they don’t just stop growing before they reach that height. (If you purchase my book “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly” from Amazon or from this website, I will give $1 of the proceeds to Tiritiri Matangi Island for their work with New Zealand’s native species including Little Blue Penguins.)

Wellington Cable Cars

You can take a cable car in Wellington from the downtown area up the hill to the botanic garden and a stop for Zealandia. However, this form of travel isn’t limited to public transportation. Some homes have their own cable cars, and it’s the only way they can get supplies to their homes.

Rotorua’s Atmosphere

Going from the wind and storm of Wellington, Rotorua was warm and full of birdsong. People warned us about the smell of sulfur in the air, but it came and went without any rhyme or reason. Is sulfur in the air healthy? Does it smell fresher than other pollutants? I’m not sure, but it definitely was interesting. Rotorua did have its own storms. I told Jenya that New Zealand doesn’t have many thunderstorms, and 20 minutes later, the lightning and thunder rained down on us in our hot tub.

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New Zealand: Photos from Whakarewarewa in Rotorua

The arch in front of Whakarewarewa

Whakarewarewa, the Living Maori Village, is a great place to find geothermal activity and Maori culture. We enjoyed the hangi pie, cooked using the natural geothermal activity, and the presentation of Maori dances, songs, and the haka. There are several places to walk and observe the geothermal features of the area. Here are some photos from our trip there.

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Tips for Becoming a Super Saver

Money and happiness?

In her book “Rich Enough? A Laid-back Guide for Every Kiwi,” Mary Holm, “New Zealand’s Most Trusted Money Expert,” gives several suggestions for becoming a super saver. By following this advice, you should be able to save more than you think you can in a shorter time span.

Super Saver Rules

The first rule is to set yourself a goal. If you play point and click games, or old-school video games, you know that racking up points is good, but having a destination is better. You can do the same thing in your savings. Have a goal, so that you can motivate yourself to get to the next level. Just be sure it’s a SMART goal.

Know what you’re saving for. What is it that you want to achieve through savings? Find a pictorial representation and put it where you can see it. Use that as your motivation.

Start small. Even if you’re just putting away $10 a month at the beginning, you’re doing something for your future. As soon as you have enough to open an interest-bearing account, get your money in there. Choose an account that will penalize you for withdrawing funds.

Use a mental trick. Holm suggests imagining your job paid you 5 percent less. Where would you cut back? Make those cuts and put that 5 percent into your savings.

Pay off a loan? Find a cheaper company for services like Internet, cable, or electricity? Paid less taxes? Got a tax refund? Take half the savings that you realize and put it into your long-term account. Do the same thing if you get a raise; put half of it in savings before you adjust your lifestyle to the increase in funds.

Any one-off payments can be put into your savings account as well. If you get an inheritance, you can use some of the money, but put most of it towards your goal. Follow these suggestions, and you’re on your way to becoming a super saver.

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New Zealand: Photos from Rotorua

Maori sculpture in Rotorua

Rotorua and its smell of sulfur was a great place to visit. They had an amazing used bookstore, Atlantis, where we found several books for cheap. (I should have bought more.)

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